tagSci-Fi & FantasyCities of Power Ch. 09

Cities of Power Ch. 09


Edge and Venn stood with Mica before the three large buildings that housed the towns people in cramped conditions. Mica felt more like himself with the two freemen beside him. Coming home had been difficult for more than one reason, and he had reverted to the wise cracking jokester the people here had expected to see. He had said nothing as Flint and Emery had been taken into the conferences with the leaders of the cities, along with Cobalt, who now stood beside their father as a leader of the town, but his insecurities about being the youngest had bitten deeply.

The two free man warriors were not of the ruling class and were left out of most of the decision-making talks as well. It was Venn who had seen through Mica's outer shell and pulled him along with him and Edge to secure the people of the town.

"Some people are born to make the decisions, and some are born to carry them out," Venn had said wisely. "Truth be told, I'd rather leave the burden of making them to the thinkers of the world, like Sirrus."

"You and me both," Edge said. "I can out ride and out fight any of them, even out drink a few, but who wants to be stuck in endless meetings when there's real work to do."

"We all have our skills, and without us those decisions wouldn't matter one iota because there would be no one to carry them out. A leader is only as good as the men who follow him. Take your forge, for example. You are the leader, you meet with clients and discuss price and timelines, then you give it to the best-skilled man to carry out the work. I bet there are times you'd rather just get in and do it yourself, or times when the apprentices are better suited to make the deal, but, instead, they follow your lead because you are a good leader."

"What he's trying to say, and badly might I add," Edge interrupted. "Is that it doesn't matter who says what in those meetings, we follow Talon, and if he chooses to follow a leader like Gale or Scorch then we follow them, but if he tells us something different, then he has our loyalty."

"What about Kaolin, or the other warriors whose fathers are here?" Mica said, seeing a similar dilemma to his unfolding with those men.

"The choice is theirs, but I would wager that they too would follow Talon's lead. He's proven himself time and again to all of us as a leader who cares about his people and the effect they have on the world around them," Venn said. "Same as the choice is yours now, to follow your fathers lead or be your own man and decide for yourself."

A deafening crack of thunder came from the heavy dark clouds that filled the sky. A blinding flash of light followed a few seconds later, making the three men flinch unconsciously, and a few of the women in the homes behind them to cry out.

Before them, in a semi-circle of sorts, stood the warriors of Phoenix, the small groups from each clan joined hands and bowed their heads in concentration, remaining so still that in the early semi darkness of the storm they could almost be mistaken for statues. Beyond them, several meters away, stood a group of Jade, Jason and a group of towns people that had once lived in the city of Pegasus. Flint and Emery had both been chosen to stand with their mother in this group. In front of them stood the two leaders of Gryphon with the fanatics, and several meters beyond them again stood the three ancient magicians drawing carefully on the power of those behind them to fight the storm.

Mica knew that Venn and Edge stood with him and the men of the town because they weren't of the same caste as the ruling families. He had wondered how they didn't resent not being seen as equals with the men and women they rode with, but hearing what they both said while standing here seemed to make sense of it. He had to admit at that moment that he was glad he wasn't in the front lines, as the storm hovered above them and seemed to try to swallow the town but for the efforts of those who possessed the power to fight it.

There was a sudden movement, and Mica peered into the dim light a moment before he saw one of his brothers lit up by a bolt of lightning that seemed stuck to the ground through him. The earth shook and, unable to help himself, Mica ran for all he was worth towards the sight, grabbing a shield from a fanatic as he ran past and hurled it at his brother, hoping the break the connection with the storm.

"Em!" Mica cried, now able to make out who it was that had been struck as he grabbed him and pulled him away, as the shield absorbed the power of the lightning bolt sending spars and metal stars into the area around it. Mica dropped his brother's incandescently hot body to the ground and watched bug-eyed as he seemed to glow with light, despite his skin looking remarkably unburnt. It took a further moment for Mica to realise that Ayla was on the ground beside him, and then the shield shattered, and the lightning strike bore into the earth sending steam rising from the hole in the ground.

The ground shook, and the men and women that were attempting to protect the town stumbled as they attempted to maintain the concentration needed to repel the worst of the magical storm that that threatened to destroy them. Mica curled around the glowing form of his unconscious brother to protect him as the magician, Ayla, stood once again. Seeing the boy protecting his brother, she moved as he had to take the remaining shield and force it into the path of the lightning which remained static as if linked to the earth it had struck.

It all happened in slow motion for those watching, the actions of Mica, the glowing form of Emery, and the giant, Flint, moving to help Ayla as she forced the second shield between the earth and the beam of light. This time Ayla had used the polished side of the metal shield and reflected the light back up and into itself, which caused an ear shattering boom that sent even the strongest man to his knees while clutching his ears. The storm dissipated as if the lightning bolt had torn the magic that held the storm together to shreds. Wispy threads of cloud scattered across the sky as the last of the driving winds dissipated and the late afternoon sun shone upon the village again.

Dazed and confused, Mica sat with Emery, even as Ayla and Jade came to his aid. He vaguely heard Ayla tell him that Emery had saved her life and that he may well have saved Emery and the rest of the village with the speed of his actions. He barely registered the words as he held Emery's head on his lap while the two women worked to heal him. His brother looked asleep, and, aside of a pale glow that seemed to come from his skin, he seemed perfectly fine.

Talon had moved a split second after Mica had pushed past him, and in the aftermath of the explosion had taken in the scene and began to call orders to the warriors. He grabbed Spar, who went to rush past him to his sons, and shouted in a commanding tone to get his full attention.

"There is nothing you can do, let the healers work. It's time to save your town and the rest of your people, your family!" He pointed to the steam and the water that was rapidly bubbling to the surface where the lightning bolt had driven into the ground, causing not only a large hole but the earth to crack in a large jagged line toward the cliff face.

Spar looked at him as if he was about to roar some commands of his own, but Talon kept speaking, and Cobalt appeared beside him looking panicked, his head turning in all directions. The stunned and bemused towns folk watched the warriors who had sprung into action using their axes and knives as digging implements to try and send the flow of water toward the north side of the village before the small vale it sat in flooded.

"We need shovels and tools and bags, lots of bags to make a levy. We need to stem the flow of water or you will lose everything. Do you understand?" Talon asked, still using a commanding tone. "Let the healers work on the boys, I promise they will do everything they can, you must rally the towns folk now. We can't save your people without you being their leader right now."

"Father, what do we do?" Cobalt asked, as Spar seemed to take a large, loud breath and blow it out slowly.

"Gather as many of the young men as you can to get the tools from the orchard. Then get them to help dig with the warriors. Tell the women to empty everything in bags but the staples from the stores and bring the bags to levy. Talon's right. The town will flood if we don't control the flow of water." Spar began issuing orders, and Cobalt jogged away with several of the young men and began issuing orders of his own.

Spar nodded at Talon and walked toward where his other three sons sat on the ground with the two healers. He looked down at the unconscious body of Emery, Mica, who was still dazed, and Flint, who sagged with exhaustion.

"Look after my boys," he said gruffly to Ayla and Jade, and turned, moving to oversee the building of the levy and gather his council around him to talk about damage control.

By unspoken agreement, Talon stood shoulder to shoulder with Spar as they dealt with the leaders of the other cities, as well as the men that looked to them as leaders. They worked alongside everyone else late into the night and divided those exhausted by the battle with the storm from those who had watched into shifts to keep moving the water in a man-made canal out past the village to where the flow would carry it along the cliff face out to the plains bordering the wasteland. The earth seemed to rumble and shift at intervals beneath their feet as muddied warriors and townsmen alike fought the continuing flow.

Each man woman and child who witnessed the storm worked through the following day to repair the damage wrought by the storm and the subsequent eruption of water from the ground below the central plaza. Several older buildings and small utility huts had collapsed in the breaking of the earth or been damaged as the jagged crevice appeared and widened with the force of the water. All through the day people whispered in awestruck wonder about the events of the storm and what had happened to the sons of Spar. Some blamed them for the storm; others stole furtive glances toward the house where the glowing man still lay unconscious.

That night Emery emerged to sit on the front porch with his mother and sister. It was important to put the rumours to rest and show any who were concerned that he was the same young man they had always known. Led by Thatcher, who had seen how hard the warriors worked to save the village and how they had all stood with them against the magical storm, a small group of men approached the porch where, exhausted beyond measure, Spar had joined his family.

"You were right to let them in, Spar," he said grudgingly.

"Them?" Spar grunted.

"The city people and magicians, we couldn't have fought that storm on our own," he admitted, sounding as if it was hard to say the words. "Or the water, I've never seen so much water," he shook his head, still unbelieving that a small river ran through the centre of the town.

"They've earned the right to be townsfolk now and be welcome, regardless of how they came here," Spar said, and even as he spoke the ground below them rumbled as if making the point for him. He looked at the small group of men and knew that any blame for the storm would not be placed at his family's or the warrior's feet now. Once the council stood together on this matter, the rest of the townsfolk would follow.

"I'm not here to argue the fact," Thatcher said in a resigned voice. "We came to say that we are glad all of your children survived the night," he looked meaningfully at Emery. "What you did was foolhardy and brave, but we are grateful."

"Everybody did their part in the last twenty-four hours," Emery said with a genuine smile. Jade had told him what had happened and what was continuing to happen in the town as he healed. "My part was small in comparison to the work of Father and Talon, who made a difference in those initial hours after the storm had passed. To think we had a river below the surface of our town," he shook his head with a smile.

"It seems the fanatics were right. The town was destroyed, but not completely. Everything worth saving has been spared. The benefits far out way the sacrifices we will have to make in the short term," Thatcher noted.

"We've all made sacrifices many times over to build the community we have here. More people will come, and we will become bigger and stronger with the help of our friends and family. Shutting out the world did not help us in the end, so we will need to find better solutions to protect our people," Cobalt said, coming to join the group. He had taken the fact that his father had included him in the decision making for the town very seriously, and had several discussions with his friends who stood with him against the council during the long day of working to clear the aftermath of the storm.

"There is a lot we can learn from the men and women who came to our aide last night," Spar nodded. "They owed us nothing, and yet they came and saved us, despite being unwelcome and looked at with suspicion."

"They came because Talon asked it of them," Trix said quietly, making them all look at her. "It wouldn't have mattered what you said in the end, or if you'd turned them away. They would follow him into the gates of the underworld if he asked it of them, and fought you for the right to do so."

"It's true. He'd never admit it, even to himself probably, but he is a good leader, and his people are intensely loyal," Emery backed up what Trix had said. "Hell, I'd probably follow him into the underworld if he asked me. He's just that sort of man."

"Well, you were always braver than you were smart," Cobalt chuckled. "I was looking for Talon, I assumed he'd be with the princess," he looked at Trix.

"He and a few of the warriors went to clean up down near the orchard," she wrinkled her nose and smiled. "I think it's the leather that they wear that makes them less than appealing after a day n the sun. Mica lent him some of his clothes to wear tonight, whether he does or not is yet to be seen." She laughed lightly, remembering the look on his face when he'd been handed the old hand-me-down clothes the villagers made do with.

"Can I walk with Cobalt to find him?" Trix asked her parents out of habit. Being home, even after the time she spent away, made her fall back into the pattern of her life as it was before the world changing events of the past week.

"Let the men bathe; Talon will come home when he is done," Spar said in a gentler tone than he would usually use for his daughter, knowing that the reason she asked was more out of respect than any control he had over her actions anymore. "Stay, I believe a few of the warriors will be coming to see Emery shortly, and it will help your mother if you are here."

"Speaking of the warriors, we came to see about billeting. Rock has already offered his home to the leader of the earth clan and his son," Thatcher said in an approving tone.

"It's the least we can do to offer them a comfortable bed for the night," One of the other men nodded emphatically.

"I thought they had decided to stay in the sanctum?" Spar turned a frown on Opal, who had spent the afternoon organising bedding and food to be made available there.

"I think most are staying within the sanctum. Rock and Thorn have been working side by side and built a rapport. I'm not sure how many of the others would take up the invitation, but it would be nice to make it. They turned us down saying that I had enough warriors to look after already," she said with a note of pride, and looked at Emery. "Perhaps the men of Justice would appreciate a warm bed if the warriors refused your invitations," she added gently.

"Perhaps you're right," Thatcher mused and scratched at his beard. "We weren't sure if arrangements had been made without us." He said, the concern that his earlier speaking out against allowing the warrior's entrance to the town may have put him on the outer side of the council coming through in his statement.

"No decisions have been made outside of the council," Spar told him in a serious voice. "Had I not taken the time to get to know the man, Talon, before the arrival of the others, I may well have been just as suspicious and unwelcoming. You spoke your mind but voted with the majority, for the good of the town, and I respect that. There will be no censure because of your actions at the time."

"I appreciate that," Thatcher said. "I'll go find the Men of Justice." He turned and left with the men who had approached Spar with him. Leaving the family once again looking out on the makeshift levy that had been built up steering the water out of the town along the hastily dug trench to the quarry and out onto the plains. The rumbling of the earth continued to cause the water to fountain up and spill out of both the hole in the centre of the village and the well they had once dug to access the water table below the village which was closer to the orchard.

Terra arrived shortly after to see Emery, and she confidently climbed the porch steps with a wide smile, practically ignoring the rest of his family until Spar spoke.

"You must be the earth warrior we have heard about," Spar said in a low, amused rumble.

"That depends entirely on what you have heard," Terra said good-naturedly. "I will admit to being a warrior of the earth clan, however."

"My brothers mentioned I'd been tinkering with your bike," Emery said quickly, a hint of a blush touching his heated cheeks.

"Yeah, I'm sure that's all they said," Kaolin chuckled as he came up behind Terra with Thorn and Vale.

"Greetings, Hammer and Jewel," Thorn said formally. "Please forgive our intrusion, but there is a myth in our clan, the earth clan, that we would like to put to the test, if we may?" He asked.

"With magicians and prophecies bringing fanatics and warriors to my town, why not myth and legend," Spar sighed. He had spent the day trying to make sense of what had happened and wrest back the control he had once felt he had over his life and the people in it, and realised that it was an impossible task.

"It has been a difficult time for you, I understand, and I do not wish to cause any further angst," Thorn spoke in an understanding tone. "We appreciate the hospitality your people have shown us after the storm was driven away."

"Would you like a drink while we talk of myth and legend?" Spar asked, hefting a jug of fire water.

"Thank you," Thorn agreed, as the younger warriors followed him up onto the porch. "I would also like to thank you, young unicorn, for the forgiveness you have shown Glow for her part in the trials you have faced. My son told me about the night you were attacked."

"There is no need to thank me. What happened was not her fault but that of the man who controlled her mind. She is free of him now, and all is well," Trix smiled as her father poured small drinks for the men of the earth clan, not thinking to include Terra, as the women of this town did not drink the fire water as a rule.

"Did you want to try the fire water?" Emery asked Terra.

"I never developed a taste for it, to tell you the truth," Terra smiled, acutely aware of the customs of the town where women were concerned. She and her fellow female warriors were an oddity to the townsfolk, and once again she wondered how a woman as strong as Trix had flourished in such a community. "I brought you something," she handed Emery a smooth sphere of stone and placed it in his hands. It was the size of a large orange, and she watched his hands intently as he held it.

"Thanks?" he questioned, looking at the stone, wondering why she had given it to him.

"Perhaps I can explain," Thorn said, noting the confusion on Emery's face. "When the great Lord Zhou came to this place to build our city, he had with him several close friends, as well as others. Each had gifts, magic of sorts, that had developed after the last great war. One of those men was the founder of our clan, and with him was a child that legend says glowed from within, much as you do now," Thorn looked at Emery. "It was our clan leader who went down into the depths of the caves in the mountains against which Phoenix now stands. It was a time of great magic, much of which has been lost to the generations that followed, but it is said that within the caves the child who had grown to be a young man found a stone that he enjoyed the feel of in his hands. He rolled this stone in his hands to form a sphere, and, when he was done, it glowed like a small moon and lit the way for him and his father without the need of torches or lanterns."

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